” Today, Western Australian State Coroner, Ros Fogliani, released her report of the investigation into the suicide deaths of 13 Indigenous young people that occurred between November 2012 and March 2016 in the Kimberley Region.
I cannot adequately express my sense of grief at the deaths of these young people.
Nor can I ever comprehend the loss and devastation their families and their communities are feeling.
The families and communities who have experienced these tragedies have been deeply affected and the pain will never leave them.
The high rate of suicide among young First Australians is one of the nation’s most confronting challenges.
Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release see Part 1 Below
Download the 42 Recommendations
Key recommendations from the inquest:
- Screen for foetal alcohol spectrum disorder during infant health assessments and when a child enters the child protection or justice systems for the first time
- Restrict take away alcohol across the entire region, introduce a banned drinker register, resource police to enforce “sly grogging” regulations and provide more funding for patrols to take intoxicated people to a “safe place”
- Extend an offer of a voluntary cashless debit card to the entire region
- Build culturally-appropriate residential colleges for students who volunteer to be admitted with the consent of their parents and/or caregivers
- Build a mental health facility in the East Kimberley that incorporates treatment for alcohol and drug abuse problems, and permanently base a mental health clinician in Halls Creek
- Train child protection workers and teachers who have regular contact with Aboriginal children in suicide intervention and prevention
- Expand the “Adopt-a-Cop” classroom program to improve the relationship between children and police, and expand a program where Aboriginal elders help conduct night patrols and speak with children on the streets
- Introduce or continue to expand Aboriginal language classes in schools, and introduce re-engagement classrooms in primary schools to improve attendance rates
- Consult more with Aboriginal people to “co-design” services and programs
- Expand cultural programs including on-country trips, and develop or refurbish facilities for young people to meet and engage in activities.
“ The report handed down today must not join the 42 reports into Aboriginal well-being delivered over the last 15 years that simply sit and gather dust. This report must lead a paradigm shift that leads to community-led solutions that address the clear sense of suffering, hopelessness and disillusionment that is being felt.
We must continue to work towards building mabu ngarrungu, strong community, and mabu buru, strong country. Essential to this is mabu liyan – being well inside ourselves through strong connections to family, community and country. Government must understand us and our thinking around culture and well-being and not continue to simply impose its own views.
There is hope for a better way of doing things and to stop this sadness. It requires a resolve to work with First Nations peoples to establish new ways.”
Senator Patrick Dodson See full Press Release Part 2 Below
“The issues are complex. It is not something that we can simply resolve by one program or one set of funding. It is something we need to tackle across the community with the help of the government,
A shift in the way major support services approach remote communities is needed to address the specific needs.
I think we’ve got a lot of mainstream services trying to impose a particular model on the needs of the community. What we really need is to work with the community to understand what are the needs; and design the services to respond to the needs.
“We can’t continue to impose things because an organisation simply says they’re the best organisation to deliver it.”
Rob McPhee, Deputy CEO of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services, said it was going to take years to tackle the complex issues that arose in the report, but action was needed.
“I think it’s a real difference to the language I have heard previously. I thought there was recognition of all the issues that contribute to Indigenous suicide,
I think it’s not only good for the Kimberley, the outcomes, but it’s good for the whole country.”
To hear the recommendations about the social determinants, that holistic approaches are required,”
Indigenous Health Professor Pat Dudgeon at the University of Western Australia said she felt the report showed recognition to the issues that have contributed to Indigenous suicide.
The RACGP and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)’s National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people includes sections relevant to suicide intervention and prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth:
- Child health – FASD, prevention of child maltreatment, and supporting families to optimise child safety and wellbeing
- The health of young people – social and emotional wellbeing and drug use
- Mental health – prevention of depression and suicide
- Lifestyle – including alcohol
- Family abuse and violence
Our national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide death rate is more than double the rate of the rest of Australian society. And among 15 to 34 year olds, it’s three times as high.
The inquest has found common elements and factors contributing to the suicide deaths of the 13 young people.
These include alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poor living conditions and poor school attendance. Tragically, these young people were never able to reach out for help from support services.
There are 42 recommendations in Ms Fogliani’s report. These recommendations have been made to help target the causes of the issues.
A number of recommendations highlighted the need for suicide programs to be culturally sensitive, and that genuine and empowered relationships with First Nations communities are critical for the success of any program.
The report also highlights the need for better coordination between government agencies responsible for suicide prevention, and has recommended a Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People be established.
The Australian Government has taken prompt action to address youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
On 25 January 2019, I hosted an urgent meeting in Perth with experts and members from the communities to discuss how best to respond to these recent tragedies.
As a result, an additional almost $5 million has been provided for a range of initiatives, including:
- fast tracking the rollout of the Be You school-based support in the Kimberley and Pilbara
- delivering of a targeted social media campaign
- expanding of the Young Ambassadors for Mental Health project to include a special focus in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth
- supporting to families dealing with grief with a focus on suicide prevention.
- commitment to working with my WA state colleagues.
The Australian Government also provides $4 million to each of the 12 National Suicide Prevention Trial sites, including two sites for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Kimberley and Darwin.
The report provides a unique opportunity to rethink how we do things with local communities.
I will be reviewing the coroner’s report as a matter of urgency.
The Australian Government will carefully consider the WA Coroner’s report and recommendations. These will inform the Government’s approach towards the issue of Indigenous suicide in the Kimberley region going forward.
Today is a difficult day for the Kimberley and the families of those who passed away.
Today, after nearly three years, State Coroner Ros Fogliani has delivered her findings in a significant inquiry into the deaths of 13 Aboriginal children and young persons in the Kimberley region between 2012 and 2016.
The Coroner’s findings were handed down in Perth, and live-streamed to the Regional Courts of Broome, Kununurra, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek. I sat in the Broome Court and it was crowded with a good cross-section of the community.
This inquiry confirms what we already know – we have a crisis in the Kimberley. The rate of suicide in the Kimberley by Indigenous people, in particular young Indigenous people, is amongst the highest in the world. The Coroner reinforced the well-known social determinants of well-being which First Nations peoples live in.
Ten years have passed since the last major inquiry into the deaths of young Indigenous people – the Hope Inquest. Today confirms yet again, we have made little or no progress.
Clearly, the policies and service delivery that address suicide in our communities are failing and our people are losing hope. Too much seems to be reliant on being delivered from the outside and not from within our community or the Kimberley.
Today, on this day of sorrow and reflection, we must re-think the way we address Indigenous youth suicide.
There needs to be a new form of engagement with Indigenous communities and young people need to have a voice and role in future initiatives if we are to fix the issues and deliver the opportunities for change in the future.
The Coroner, in her final key recommendation, emphasised the principles of self-determination and empowerment in initiatives, policies and programs relating to First Nations peoples. She has relied on the expressed aspirations of the Western Australian Government. The Western Australian Government must now honour this with First Nations people.
Any new approach must be informed by a rigorous analysis of the values driving the delivery of services. It must be holistic and therapeutic – addressing the complex needs of entrenched socio-economic disadvantage, unresolved trauma, cultural disruption, and systemic social exclusion and disempowerment. We need to prioritise programs that value cultural imperatives and programs controlled by Indigenous people.
There is no magical solution to be handed down by government. But government must work in collaboration with communities to achieve a new social order